So glad I was able to make the conference call (sorry if some of the noise from strike filtered in through the phone, but we had just finished our last show). As was pointed out in the call, I have literally been "living my art"--serving as the musical director for a Children's Theater's production of "The Music Man" with 57 kids. I was there for auditions before residency, and jumped into week 2 of rehearsals as soon as I got home.
My reading therefore was crammed in between rehearsals (or at any moment when they weren't needing music), but I too was questioning the issue of "how does theater fit into all this?" I also, as I mentioned in the phone call, was wondering how "Participation" fit into the insider/outsider discussion. There were some areas that made sense--like the essay on teaching people to dance to African-American pop music--but other times I was very confused by the readings. It also seemed very urban-directed. I live in a VERY rural area, where things just work differently. (Not sure how to express that better)
The conference call, however, was helpful. It was nice to hear everyone's voices again and how you all were doing and your many projects. And during that call we talked a bit about community (which, interestingly, isn't really discussed by name in the book). Here, in rural areas, community is important because it literally brings people from their own little corners of the woods together for social interaction. For "The Music Man," one of my tasks was to put together a pit orchestra. Well, there isn't an area orchestra I can just invite over to play with us...I have to create one. So I spend literally weeks and weeks calling every musician I know (and everyone they know, and the next person knows, etc.) to find people in the area (who can read music and play well enough) who have the time and interest to play for the children's theater. This year, we had 8 instruments (piano, flute, clarinet, violin, trumpet, trombone, bass, and percussion), and six rehearsals before the show opened. While some of these people are repeat performers from other shows, many were new and had never met the other players. The score is very demanding, with over 60 pieces of music in it, and somehow in six rehearsals this motly band of musicians from high schoolers to band teachers to retirees (one of whom is nearly deaf) forms into a close-knit community with me as the facilitator and director (yes, I really do use a baton!). It's really an amazing process.
Working with the pit orchestra (and 57 kids in the cast!) was a very intense experience. But it always amazes me the outpour of community support that makes these summer productions possible--and the community that forms and then disbands around the theater for these productions. Talk about participation!
My other community activity that I wanted to share is perhaps closer to what was being discussed in "Patricipation." Every Saturday from 8:00 to noon, I work the farmer's market in Cable (a tiny little artsy town about a half hour away). The more I read in "Participation," the more I realized that my presence at the farmer's market was a community involved art piece (as well as a financial arrangement for our farm goods). I'm the first stand off the road, so that means I become the market greeter as well as vendor, welcoming community members and tourists to this community event that celebrates local growers and artists. Sometimes I sing or play music with other visiting artsts, tell stories (especially about our farm), introduce people to Cable's local flavor, give directions (how do I get to?...), and get to know the kinds of people in this community...their food loves...their little ficklenesses over price or color or whatever. You really get to know people at an interesting level, working a farmer's market, and my goodness how they miss you when you're not there! (like when I was gone for residency). So I guess that makes me part of their community too. It also ties into the art as experiment idea that JuPong mentioned. Like--hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I put the snoods on this side of the table and the jams on that side today--and then see how people respond.
I'd like to hear what some of your thoughts are on community and how it impacts your work. I know it may be different, because many of you work in urban areas. Good to talk with you all, keep up the studying. :)